Apr 1, 2022

Identification Measurements in Criminal Cases: New Developments

Guest post by Pallavi Mohan

A few days ago, the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs tabled the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill 2022 (“Identification Bill”) before the Lok Sabha. This new bill proposes to allow the police to take specific details/identification measurements of convicts and other persons for identification, investigation and prosecution of criminal matters. If passed, it will repeal a 102-year-old legislation called The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920.

What are the types of measurements the police can collect under this legislation?

The Identification bill allows the police to collect measurements like finger impressions, palm-print impressions, foot-print impressions, photographs, iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples and their analysis, behavioural attributes including signatures, handwriting or the results of any medical examination conducted at the request of the police officer or the arrested person.

This makes the ambit of the Identification Bill much wider than that of the existing law, which permitted the collection of only fingerprints and foot impressions.

Who are the persons authorised under the Identification Bill to collect and preserve these identification measurements?

As per the Identification Bill, a “police officer” in charge of a police station or one not below the rank of a constable and a “prison officer” not below the rank of Head Warder can take identification measurements. The process for this will be detailed in rules or regulations to be made by the Central or the State Government.

The National Crime Records Bureau is the main authority designated to preserve the record of measurements after their collection from State Governments or Union territory administrations or any other law enforcement agencies. They have to:

  • preserve the record of measurements in a digital or electronic format at a national level for 75 years,
  • process the records as per the relevant crimes and criminal records; and
  • share the records with law enforcement agencies when the need arises.

They are also allowed to destroy the record of measurements, the process for which will be detailed in rules or regulations to be made by the Central or State Government.

Can the police take any kind of measurements for anyone or are there any exceptions?

The police can take measurements for:

  • someone convicted of an offence, or
  • someone who a magistrate, believing they may disturb peace and public tranquility, has ordered to execute a bond or give security, or
  • someone arrested in connection with an offence, or
  • someone detained under any preventive detention law.

The only exception to this rule is that if a person is arrested for an offence, they cannot be compelled to give their biological samples. They will still be required to provide all the remaining measurements.

But where a person is arrested for an offence against a woman or a child, or for an offence punishable with imprisonment for a period not less than seven years, then even this exception does not apply and such a person can be compelled to give their biological sample.

What will happen if a person declines to give their record of measurements voluntarily to the concerned authorities?

The Central or State Governments can make rules or regulations for the steps a police officer can take (even against the person’s wishes) if someone declines to give their measurements. Also, the resistance or refusal by any person to give measurements (except where they are entitled to refuse to give biological samples) will be considered an offence under Section 186 of the IPC, which lays down the punishment for voluntarily obstructing any public servant in the discharge of their public functions.